BREAKING NEWS: AAPT and AOL in 50/50 joint venture

The Telecom New Zealand-controlled Australian carrier AAPT has announced a 50/50 joint venture covering the operation of AOL Australia and a new Internet portal to deliver wireless content services based around AAPT's CDMA cellular network.

The Telecom-controlled AAPT and America Online (AOL) have announced a 50/50 joint venture to operate AOL Australia.

The joint venture will also aunch a new Internet portal to deliver wireless content services based around AAPT's CDMA cellular network. Telecom, which owns 80% of AAPT, has chosen the same Lucent CDMA platform as AAPT.

The new joint venture will have exclusive rights to offer the AOL and CompuServe services on both PC and mobile wireless platforms throughout Australia. America Online local and international content, global management expertise, e-commerce relationships, interactive technologies and features.

AOL Australia will in turn gain access to AAPT network and sales, marketing and distribution channels. AAPT currently has more than 650,000 retail customers. The parties said the deal will provide more Australians with local call access to AOL Australia and offer " significant cost savings" for AOL.

As part of the agreement, the joint venture also will launch an Internet portal using AOL's wireless technologies to deliver content services to Australia's emerging consumer wireless market. Among the services will be consumer content for AAPT's CDMA cellular network.

AAPT CEO Larry Williams said the venture would "provide the best value proposition to consumers with a distinctly Australian flavour. The joint venture will provide AAPT with a tremendous opportunity to develop new and substantial consumer markets and revenue by cross-selling and packaging AAPT retail products and services, such as CDMA and wireless Internet, to our combined customer base.

"This new relationship will also enable us to further leverage our e-commerce capabilities and synergies within our connect.com.au subsidiary to become a full service IP network and access provider."

Recently, America Online and Bertelsmann AG announced an agreement to restructure their interests in their AOL Europe and AOL Australia joint ventures. As a result of the agreement, America Online is to take ownership of Bertelsmann's 50% interest in AOL Australia, subject to receipt of necessary regulatory approvals.

AOL Australia also announced today that Carol Veriga is stepping down as Managing Director. Carol will remain close to the operation as a consultant over the coming months. Dr. Brett Wayn, Director of AOL Australia Content and Programming, has been appointed General Manager and will oversee the day-to-day operations of AOL Australia while the joint venture undertakes a search for a CEO.

Closing of the transactions is subject to receipt of necessary regulatory approvals, including FIRB approval.

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